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The opacity and fill settings on a layer in Photoshop seem to do the same thing. What is the difference?

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When we set the Opacity value for a selected layer, the change applies to the entire layer. This means that any layer styles and blending mode for that layer are also affected.

When we set the Fill value,only painted pixels and vector items are affected,layer styles and blending mode remain same. i tried to show you the main difference between both, Check this SS.

For example, enter image description here

you can specify a Fill value and blending mode for a layer and only the fill pixels inside the shape are affected-not the layer styles applied to the layer. If you use the Opacity option to adjust transparency both the shape and effects are affected.i used inner shadow and stroke as layer style,i chose opacity 5% to show you coz in 0% there is nothing to display. hope this may clear you confusion.

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  • I think your answer is wrong. When I set the Blend Mode to Vivid Light, I set Opacity=100, Fill=50, it looks totally different than Opacity=50, Fill=100 (without any layer styles). Apr 22 '14 at 21:51
  • I tried it in Photoshop CS6. Here is an example: imgur.com/F5em93R. The difference is even more evident in some cases. It happens with several other blend modes. May 23 '14 at 10:25
  • have you tried without blend mode?
    – Jack
    May 25 '14 at 8:32
  • Yes, with Normal, Dissolve, Multiply blend modes both things look the same. But with Vivid Light and couple of others, there is a difference. May 25 '14 at 9:37
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The Fill slider affects only the layers content.

The Opacity slider affects the entire layer, including any effects, such as drop shadow, inner glow, etc.

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  • Thanks a lot. That really helped. I tried it myself by adding "outer glow" to a profile photo and working the "fill" and "opacity" sliders.
    – Les Coles
    Sep 24 '18 at 6:18
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The difference is in when it comes to layer styles.

If you haven't added any effects (styles) to your layer, like a stroke, drop shadow, bevel and emboss or outer glow, you'll get the same results when lowering either the Opacity or Fill values.

If, on the other hand, you do have one or more layer styles applied, Opacity and Fill behave very differently... Try adding some text to an image, add some layer styles to the text, and then change opacity and fill values. You will notice that opacity changes everything, and fill changes all except the layer effects you added.

Read this article as it does a fantastic job and showing the difference: http://www.photoshopessentials.com/basics/layers/opacity-vs-fill/

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It is important to note that Opacity and Fill behave differently when used in conjunction with "Special 8" blend modes. To quote the source:

These blend modes behave differently when Fill Opacity is adjusted, compared to when standard Opacity is adjusted. The blend modes that aren’t members of this Special 8 group react the same to both Fill and Opacity changes (assuming there are no Layer Effects), but with these Special 8 blend modes, 40% Opacity will look different than 40% Fill, or 30% Opacity will look different than 30% Fill, etc. For all of the other blend modes (the modes that aren’t part of the Special 8), 40% Opacity looks the same as 40% Fill, or 20% Opacity looks the same as 20% Fill, etc. This is an important concept to understand, because it can extend the capabilities of these blend modes. For example, the Hard Mix blend mode usually doesn’t look all that great, but when you adjust the Fill Opacity for this mode, you can get some great results. The blend modes that are members of this Special 8 group are Color Burn, Linear Burn, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge (Add), Vivid Light, Linear Light, Hard Mix, and Difference.

Source: https://photoblogstop.com/photoshop/photoshop-blend-modes-explained

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